Photo courtesy Weatherford Democrat

Friday, August 12, Parker County, Texas – Number 40 in a scorching streak of 100-degree days.

Huge electronic signs along major North Texas highways warn of “Extreme Drought Conditions.” Media outlets remind people to drink plenty of water and be mindful of signs of dehydration.

Meanwhile, on property just outside of Weatherford, the capital of Parker County and self-proclaimed “Cutting Capital of the World,” city officials find eight horses dead and a ninth dying as the result of dehydration.

Although the horses had access to two automatic water troughs, both were empty and completely dry. A veterinarian estimated that the horses had gone without water for at least eight days, and had been dead for at least two.

One horse was found on a fence that separated it from a swimming pool, just 30 yards away.

The Parker County Sheriff’s Department is seeking animal cruelty/failure to provide charges against Linda Pharis, 54, who was hired to care for the horses. At least one other person faces charges, as well.

There are unsubstantiated rumors that one of the dead horses is a former National Cutting Horse Association Futurity champion, belonging to the out-of-state owner of all nine horses.

In July 2009, 40 horses were found under similar circumstances on property in Parker County – 11 were dead, one had to be euthanized, and 29 were treated for dehydration.

“This is a very serious matter,” Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Automatic watering wells quit. You have to do more than look from a distance; you have to physically go look.”